- Jim Strickland sent word that Lindsay’s Technical Books is shutting down next year, not for financial reasons but simply because Lindsay is retiring. Their last print catalog has been sent. Order the stuff you’ve been procrastinating about for years–I will be. (Recommendation: Radio for the Millions.) Tip for those who haven’t heard of him before: Lots of steampunk-pertinent do-it-yourself there.
- Amazon can wipe any Kindle it wants to, anytime, without telling you. We’ve known this since the 1989 dustup over the rights to Orwell’s 1984. It’s still a risk, and you can trigger it by trying to sneak around region restrictions. Now, Ars Technica explains how to keep what you’ve bought by removing the DRM. I object to region restrictions in digital content because it makes piracy a safer way to acquire content. Don’t train your customers to be pirates. When are we going to learn?
- I knew this, but not in detail: Kodak had a working digital camera prototype in 1975, and it used a casette tape to store photos–which took 23 seconds per photo. Here’s more on the device from the man who invented it.
- If that sort of thing intrigues you, here’s the motherlode.
- In case you’ve never actually seen it (I hadn’t) here’s where you can stream the video of Doug Engelbart’s prophetic (to put it mildly) Mother of All Demos, during which he showed how a mouse could be used to help with various computer tasks like word processing.
- I bought the original Microsoft Mouse in 1983 and still have it. It still works. It had better, as I paid $200 for it.
- The placebo effect may be genetic–which is a far less significant question than how the hell it works to begin with.
- The first mirror for this telescope has now been completed. The finished telescope will have seven of them. I struggled to grind, polish, and figure a ten-inch mirror when I was 15. This helps me put the whole thing in perspective. Wow.
- Slate seems to think that humans would win fights with Neanderthals. Having seen a number of skeletal and muscle reconstructions of those gnarly guys, I tend to doubt it. Why, then, did they go extinct if we didn’t kill them? My guess: They killed each other. Why do I think that? I read human history and anthropology.
- You can now buy a brand-new, reinforced and factory rustproofed body for a 1940 Ford Coupe…from Ford. If they made an AWD minivan I’d already have one. Here’s hoping.
As I circle the concluding chapters of Ten Gentle Opportunies like a ravening vulture (do vultures raven? If so, what do ravens do?) I discovered this morning while reading email with an iced coffee in hand that Phil Foglio posted a rave of my novel The Cunning Blood, both on the Girl Genius Facebook page and his LiveJournal. (Thanks abundant to Alice Bentley for the tipoff.) Nothing motivates this particular vulture to abandon patience and kill something like a review of what has been (and still is–barely) my only completed full-length novel.
Now I have to kill this thing before it kills me.
(Note that there are other reasons for my slowdown the last couple of weeks, reasons that kept me from attending MileHiCon this weekend. Carol had to take a flight to Chicago on very short notice; more as things become clearer.)
Need. More. Coffee. I’m trying something peculiar here: The new-ish International Delights iced-coffee-in-a-milk-carton product. It’s outside the envelope for me because it’s got sugar in it, so I really bought it as a dessert. The mocha flavor is disappointing. It tastes almost exactly like the chocolate milk I used to drink at the Lane Tech lunchroom. Good if you like that sort of thing, but I want a brew that reminds me less of the clueless nerd I was in high school.
I also need to research the named ingredient “corn syrup.” Is that a new euphemism for HFCS? I know the corn industry is squirming so hard the worms in the gully are worried, but from earlier research I know that corn syrup is mostly glucose/destrose, which while still sugar isn’t as malevolent as HFCS seems to be.
Flying back from Hawaii I attempted to watch a rip of an episode from the original Outer Limits series on my Transformer Prime, and discovered something interesting: The throughput from the MicroSD card slot is insufficient to render the video on the Transformer’s display. It’s not exactly pixellation, but more like the sort of herringbone interference my ham radio signal used to put on broadcast TV. Regardless, it made watching the video impossible. Then, when I simply copied the .avi file to internal storage, it played perfectly. I know from previous experience that mp3 files play fine from MicroSD, and ebooks are not an problem at all.
Separate but still important issue: The Transformer Prime did not have the audio signal to drown out jet engine noise on our long flight. So even once I copied the episode to internal storage, I couldn’t make out the dialog half the time. That was the only video I brought, so more research is necessary. Video rips are peculiar things, and I certainly need better headphones.
I’ve broken a lot of light bulbs in my sixty years, but this recent casualty from the lamp over the stove was remarkable:
Secret? The touch of a rag wet with cold water. Yes, the bulb was off , but had been on all morning until five seconds previous. Duhhh. Light bulbs are not made of Pyrex.
- No, I’m not done yet. I’m almost a month behind schedule. If I were done, you would have heard the yell all the way over there, no matter where “there” is.
- One very practical contrarian habit of mine is eating dinner at 5 PM. Carol and I never have to worry about getting into restaurants. I don’t care if it’s uncool. It allows me to get to sleep by 9:30.
- Bill Cherepy sent word that Bicycle is now offering steampunk playing cards, in case you’re partial to poker by the stoker.
- Oh, and a zombie deck, too. Of course.
- A visually impaired person in our church reads The Book of Common Prayer (basically, the Episcopal Church’s missal) on her iPad. The Episcopal Church publishes a large-print edition, but the magic here is that she can make the print as large as she needs to. It’s part of a free app called Wayfarer, and is available in the iTunes store.
- Toshiba is about to release their Excite 13 tablet, with a 13.3″ display. Much bitching has ensued. My view: It’s not a smartphone, nor an ebook reader. It’s half a laptop (as is the Toshiba Thrive) and there are uses for half a laptop. As my tenure with the Asus Transformer Prime and its docking keyboard have shown, keyboards are nice to have on media-consumption devices, but it’s good to be able to undock them when you don’t need them.
- Sometimes, the world is your neon bulb.
- I still have a tin of Penguin Peppermints. However, it looks like the in thing now is Energy Gummy Bears.
- Or maybe Candy Lego.
- My suggested general term for this sort of scamtrolling might be teergrubing. The idea is to waste as much of a scammer’s time as possible. This is not new, but the examples cited in the article are very funny.
- Here’s lookin’ at you, squid.
I know how the turtle beat the hare: The turtle ate the hare, and the turtle’s nose crossed the finish line before his stomach did. The trick is staying away from the business end of the turtle. More on this in a moment.
As some insiders know, Carol and I just spent a week in Hawaii celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary. We chose the Sheraton Maui because it had almost everything we wanted: Good food, good beds, a good beach, colorful fish, rentable beach cabanas, and a 30-foot-high lava cliff from which addled teenagers were throwing themselves into the surging ocean every five or six seconds all day long. This allowed me the pleasure of congratulating myself on being a lot saner than I remembered being at that age. (Yes, my friend George Murphy and I built a pair of what amounted to wheeled surfboards and took them coasting through the Chicago sewer system in 1967. It was nuts. It was maybe a little dangerous. But it wasn’t frakking batshit.)
So we got ourselves a cabana, and we set up on the beach to do some serious lolling. I stuffed my cranky, 8-year-old Kodak V530 digital camera into what amounted to a fortified ziplock bag, parked my prescription snorkel mask on my broad and heavily sunblocked forehead, and followed Carol into the water. Taking pictures of fish with this rig is tricky because you can’t easily see what the camera’s LCD is showing, and fish don’t sit still. I snapped a lot of pictures of water where fish had been swimming a second or two ago. When I did get the fish in the frame, it was generally the wrong end of the fish.
After an hour or so of snapping empty water and colorful fish butts, there was some excitement among nearby beachgoers. People were staring into the water and pointing at something big and dark. I ducked underwater, and saw the biggest damned turtle south of Gamera steaming right at us. Carol and I dodged to one side, but turtles are better in water than we are, and by the time we got out of its way there was maybe three feet between us. The turtle was big enough to be clearly visible on my LCD display. I snapped some reasonable shots (reasonable for four feet of surf-churned water) the best of which is above. All I can figure is that we were between the turtle and an algae wad with his name on it. The turtle got to the algae wad, and Carol and I didn’t get eaten in the bargain.
Ok, I watched too many Japanese monster movies on Channel 7 when I was 12. Guilty. At least I wasn’t jumping off thirty-foot lava cliffs.
The turtle, as it happened, was a regular visitor to the beach, and we saw others cruising the nearby waters just about every time we looked under the surface. We saw them swimming around from our hotel room window more than once. It was the great unexpected pleasure of the trip.
More on this and other things tomorrow.